Strategist explains how new challenger in Kashmir, Peoples Conference, is working these elections

Strategist explains how new challenger in Kashmir, Peoples Conference, is working these elections
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SRINAGAR: The Sajjad Lone-led Peoples Conference (PC) which seems to be the only party taking on heavyweight National Conference (NC) in the parliamentary elections, has banked on Shia votes, other party leaders who have joined PC, and silent support from former legislators to make the NC, which has won nine out of twelve elections from Srinagar, bleed one more time.
The last time it was PDP that pulled the rug from under NC’s feet in Srinagar in 2014. But the NC regained the seat in by-elections that were held when the PDP was in power, though the winning margin was thin as most of the electorate boycotted the election. For PC, which has a base in only two assembly segments in Kupwara, to make NC’s defeat possible again, it has to work on all three districts – Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal – that comprise the Srinagar parliamentary constituency and have 15 assembly segments.
The PC is banking on the influential Shia family of the Ansaris which was instrumental in ensuring PDP’s win in 2014 in Srinagar. One of the PC’s strategists told Kashmir Reader that Srinagar’s four assembly constituencies are already in the PC’s pocket, and it is working on another four.
He said the party has overwhelming support in Khansahab, Chadoora, and its weak nerve, Charar-e-Sharif, is under constant process for securing votes. Ganderbal, he said, is weak too, but the party has managed to convince many people to vote for PC again.
“Look,” the strategist said, “the party’s full focus is on Shia votes. Ansaris are working on all their footholds. This makes Batamaloo, Zadibal, Sonwar, and Hazratbal, the NC dominated areas, inclined towards us. The same strategy is being followed in Budgam and Ganderbal.”
The PC has made three BJP leaders of Srinagar, Budgam, and Ganderbal to join PC. The trio includes Tariq Khan, BJP’s Kashmir in-charge during the recent Panchayat elections. The leaders have joined PC along with 300 other workers, the strategist said. He said some BJP councillors who offered support to PC to make Junaid Mattu the Srinagar Mayor have also joined PC. Some PDP leaders are part of them, he added. Asharaf Palpori, a councillor who fought ULB elections as an independent, became political advisor to the deputy mayor, joined the PDP, and has now joined PC, the strategist said.
“Ashraf comes from Palpora area of Eid Gah constituency. He has good support there. He can be instrumental in getting votes from that area,” another leader of PC said.
PC has also managed to get Mian Altaf’s brother, Jawad, into the party fold to weaken the NC’s base in Kangan constituency. From Sonwar, where PDP’s Ashraf Mir has good say, PC has managed to get his brother and he will be campaigning against his brother for the PC.
From Budgam, where PC has not managed to get any influential person into the fold, has made independents, deserters, and current MLCs vote for the party.
“They have been good friends to some of the senior party members. If they keep their word on getting us votes, it will be a game changer,” the strategist said.